The moody, low moorland above Pooley Bridge at the northern end of Ullswater looks, at first glance, like an empty, featureless place, but closer inspection reveals a landscape dotted with Bronze Age mysteries. The turf-covered stone mounds of Askham Moor are interspersed with substantial depressions, causing some confusion. What’s natural? What’s not? Many of the stone mounds are funerary cairns dating from the Bronze Age; many of the depressions are shake holes, naturally formed by the interaction of water and the underlying limestone. But some of the stone formations are natural; some of the holes are man-made. It’s all very confusing!
The most impressive – and bewildering – of these ancient remains is The Cockpit. Between 3500 and 5000 years old, this stone circle consists of about 30 standing or recumbent stones on the inside of a low bank. What it was used for, nobody knows. It might have been a meeting place; it might have religious significance. Like other stone circles in Cumbria, such as Castlerigg and Long Meg and Her Daughters, it remains an enigma. There’s a little more certainty surrounding its name though, thought to have been acquired in more recent times when the site was used for cock-fighting.
About a mile away, on the eastern edge of the moor, is a solitary standing stone known as the Cop Stone.
The Bronze Age sites of Askham Moor are located on open access land criss-crossed by well-used paths and tracks. They can be accessed on foot from either Pooley Bridge or Askham. Both the Cop Stone and The Cockpit are close to bridleways, so can also be visited by off-road cyclists and horse riders.